Saturday, December 03, 2011

Review: Peony in Love by Lisa See

First line: Two days before my sixteenth birthday, I woke up so early that my maid was still asleep on the floor at the foot of my bed.

From the back cover: In seventeenth-century China, in an elaborate villa on the shores of Hangzhou's West Lake, Peony lives a sheltered life. One night, during a theatrical performance in her family's garden, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man and is immediately overcome with emotion. So begins Peony's unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow, the living world and the afterworld. Eventually expelled from all she's known, Peony is thrust into a realm where hungry ghosts wander the earth, written words have the power to hurt and kill, and dreams are as vivid as waking life. Lisa See's novel, based on actual historical events, evokes vividly another time and place - where three generations of women become enmeshed in a dramatic story, uncover past secrets and tragedies, and learn that love can transcend death. Peony in Love will make you ache in heart and mind for young Peony and all the women of the world who want to be heard.

My thoughts: I found this to be an engrossing, thought-provoking story that have me hooked from the first page. It is an amazing emotional journey of a young girl's love and loss through her life and her death. I learned so much about the ancestral ways of the Chinese that I never understood before. And while I am not really a fan of the whole spirit world/ghost story genre, in the case of this book, I found it enhanced the book, especially since the afterworld is so much a part of the Chinese culture.

The story is about a young girl in China who is getting ready to be married off, when she becomes obsessed with the most romantic story she had ever come to know - the Chinese opera, "The Peony Pavilion." As a special gift, her father presents the opera to Peony, who is to be married in a short time to a man she has never met. Against the conventions of her culture, Peony meets a young man by accident and imagines herself in love. Mimicking the heroine in the opera, Peony becomes lovesick and obsessed with the opera to the point of refusing to eat. She immersed herself in books, poetry, and her imagination. From there, her life takes dramatic changes and thus the reader is brought along this roller coaster of a novel.

This is the second book by Lisa See that I have read and I cannot wait to read the rest of her books. I love learning about other cultures and Lisa See is really able to delve into the history and meaning of the Chinese culture and way of life.

(I got this book from a family member.)


  1. This has been on my list for awhile! I need to get to it - I also really like Lisa See. Have you read "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan"? Fantastic.

  2. @Kate Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was the first book that my book club read and I really enjoyed it. I haven't seen the movie of it yet...have you?

  3. I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and loved it! I have heard the movie wasn't as good but I am going to try to watch it anyway. I will have to read Peony. I love how even though Lisa See's books are fictional, you can learn so much from them!

  4. I haven't read this one yet. Lisa See is a wonderful writer, and her stories come to life. Terrific review!

  5. This is my first book by Lisa See, but it will definitely not be my last! Although there is certainly a point in the book that is so heartbreaking I almost stopped reading it, I'm so glad I continued on this journey with Peony. What a wonderful, incredible book on women, men, love, passion, mothers, daughters, and the golden threads of words that bind our souls together forever.


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